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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #16
Trying to get your first 10 customers and trying not to get fired from your own company
I get lots of ideas for articles about startups and entrepreneurship by talking with my students. Unfortunately, school has been out of session for a couple months. But that changed this week. It’s mid-January, classes just started back up, and, after the first week, I’ve already got plenty of topics I want to cover. So stay tuned. Lots of good stuff coming.
Including… this issue! You’ll learn how to get your first 10 customers, how not to get fired from your own company, and I answer a question someone sent about finding a manufacturer for her startup idea. Spoiler alert: if you have to ask, you’re probably not ready to start looking.
Remember, please consider forwarding this email to a friend. And, as usual, send your questions about startups and entrepreneurship by either replying to this email, following me on Twitter, or messaging me on LinkedIn.
Customer acquisition for early startups looks very different than customer acquisition for established companies. Here's what you need to do to get your first 10 customers. Yes, it's a lot of work, but don't worry... you won't have to do it forever.
The Llama Farmer Who Popularized Affiliate Marketing
These days, any serious entrepreneur understands affiliate marketing. It's core to how companies make money online. However, when it was first tried, affiliate marketing was revolutionary, and it opened the door for all sorts of new businesses that could never have otherwise existed. Those businesses owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lex Sisney, founder of Commission Junction. He shares the story of how he launched the biggest third party affiliate network on the newest episode of Web Masters.
Listen now on:
…or just search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Just because you built a company, when you take money from investors, it’s no longer your company, and other people get to decide what’s best for it. Unfortunately, as the founder, there’s a good chance you’re not the best person to grow the company, and your investors won’t hesitate to let you know.
Office Hours Q&A
I’ve got an idea for a new type of kitchen appliance that I think would be really useful to a certain type of cook, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to manufacture it so I can figure out how much it’ll cost to make and how many I can afford to create in my first batch. But I don’t know anything about the manufacturing process. How do I find a manufacturer and/or how do I learn more about the manufacturing process?
STOP! DON’T DO IT! YOU’RE BETTER OFF THROWING YOUR MONEY INTO A TRASH CAN AND SETTING IT ON FIRE!
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you your idea is bad. I’m also not telling you it’s good. Truth is, you haven’t told me enough about your idea for me to have an opinion. More importantly, that’s besides the point.
Instead, based on what you’ve written here, you think you have a great idea for a product, but you haven’t validated whether the market thinks it’s a good idea. And the reason I’m guessing that is because you wrote “I’ve got an idea for a new type of kitchen appliance that I think would be really useful to a certain type of cook” rather than something along the lines of, “I’ve got an idea for a new type of kitchen appliance that already has a waiting list of 1,000 cooks ready to buy it as soon as its manufactured.”
Do you see the difference? It sounds like you’ve come up with something you think would be valuable, but you haven’t validated the idea yet. True, it might be the most amazing appliance since the bread slicer, but it also might be something nobody wants. So, before you spend thousands of dollars designing and then manufacturing a product people may or may not want, I highly encourage you to validate the idea.
FYI -- in case you’re wondering how to validate the idea without actually having the product, here are 8 data-driven ways to validate your startup idea.
Once you’ve validated the idea, I bet you’ll find that manufacturing it isn’t particularly hard. To be clear, I don’t mean it’s quick or that it won’t take work. I just mean that the product manufacturing industry has been operating for a loooooong time, and there’s likely nothing technologically impossible about what you’re envisioning. With some googling and maybe a conversation or two with your local entrepreneurship support program (there’s likely one wherever you live), you’ll find someone more qualified than me who can help with the manufacturing process. So the more important question is: What evidence do you have that you’re developing a product people will buy?
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!